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Vacuum cleaners use low air pressure to help us pick up small particles of dirt and dust.MAKSIMS_LIENE/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Let’s Talk Science and the Royal Society of Canada have partnered to provide Globe and Mail readers with relevant coverage about issues that affect us all – from education to the impact of leading-edge scientific discoveries. Let’s Talk Science offers a number of fun activities to get youth engaged in STEM.

Discover the type of pressure that is used in a vacuum cleaner.

What You Need

· Vacuum cleaner

· Paper Bag

· Handful of sparkles, confetti, etc.

Safety first! Do not use a plastic bag. It could get sucked into the vacuum. Keep hands away from vacuum hoses and follow all safety instructions provided with your vacuum.

What to Do

1. Look at the various parts of your vacuum (hose, beater brushes, bag, handle, etc). What does a vacuum cleaner do? What does each part do? Does the vacuum cleaner blow air out or suck air in? What does the vacuum cleaner pick up?

2. To prove that a vacuum cleaner uses air to pick up little bits of dirt, blow into the paper bag like a balloon and seal it with your hand. Feel the bag. What is inside the bag?

3. Add the sparkles, or the confetti to the bag.

4. Put the hose attachment of the vacuum cleaner into the opening of the bag and turn on the vacuum cleaner for a few seconds. What happens to the bag?

5. Look inside the bag. What happened to the sparkles or the confetti? Where did they go?

6. Look inside the canister or the bag of the vacuum to find them. What is in the bag? How did the sparkles get in the bag?

What’s happening?

A vacuum cleaner is a form of technology. Technology is something that people create to solve problems. Vacuum cleaners pull air in and the air sucks up dirt and dust.

Inside vacuum cleaners a fan blows air (you can often feel it). In order for a fan to blow air, it needs to draw air in. This is the air that sucks up, or vacuums, the dirt and dust.

The low pressure air caused by the air going into the vacuum cleaner draws up small objects which then get trapped in bags, canisters or filters.

Why does it matter?

Vacuum cleaners use low air pressure to help us pick up small particles of dirt and dust. Vacuum suction is also used in many industries to move materials around. A milking machine uses low air pressure (vacuum pressure) to create suction to milk a cow. The milk can also be moved to a large holding tank using vacuum pressure.

Investigate further

· Use straws to investigate picking up light objects using suction. Make sure the objects are lightweight and larger than the opening of the straw so they are not accidentally inhaled (e.g., try using small squares of paper or Styrofoam).

· Use straws and create a challenge to move a safe liquid from one cup to another (e.g., fresh water, juice or milk) using only the straw and vacuum pressure (suction).

Discover more free, English and French, Let’s Talk Science hands-on STEM activities, resources and events online.